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I probably should have asked this question a LONG time ago and I expect to be laughed out of this forum, but I NEED find the answer to this seemingly rudimentary question...

If I intend to host a .NET web application, why would I want to use Windows Server as opposed to plain vanilla Windows? Plain vanilla Windows has IIS so it obviously is capable of serving up web pages to some degree. I can't seem to find any decent documentation on this. I guess I just always assumed that vanilla Windows is meant for developing and Windows Server is meant for serving pages. Can anyone shed some light on this topic for me or point me in the direction of some documentation?


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migrated from Nov 19 '09 at 1:22

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+1 This is a very good question – Shoban Sep 8 '09 at 4:56
Is this not more of a ServerOverflow question? – Darknight Sep 8 '09 at 12:52
I meant to say ServerFault :) – Darknight Sep 8 '09 at 12:53
Good point, Darknight. I've seen ServerFault before but, for some unknown reason, I never made the association to StackOverflow. I'm a developer so I guess my brain is programmed to come here for everything. :P Now, about moving this question... – James Jones Sep 8 '09 at 15:25
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This isn't a dumb question at all. it's actually a good question.

My information may be out of date, but in earlier versions of the home Operating Systems (Win98 - WinXP) the version of IIS (or Personal Web Server on the older OS's) that ships with the operating system is limited to fewer connections (10 the last I knew), so that alone rules out hosting a web site that is expected to get more than 10 users at a time on a non-server operating system.

Check out this FAQ:

However, in a small workgroup environment, hosting your web site on a client operating system vs. a server operating system is a possibility.

*Edit - Added *

I'm not sure what your plans are - whether you're planning on hosting a site to the outside world, an internal company website (Intranet), or a small workgroup web site.

Based on the basic nature of this question (even though it is a good question) if you're looking to host a public web site I would strongly encourage you to go with a hosting company. The security hassles alone of setting up and maintaining your own service is something that requires a lot of expertise to do properly. I've been doing web programming since 1997 or so and I wouldn't undertake it myself. It's a whole different set of skills to maintain a secure environment.

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+1. Even Vista Ultimate still has a 25 connection limit. – gbn Sep 8 '09 at 4:57
Yup, Windows Server software does not have its connections limited in the way home/business Windows does. You NEED it to be able to run a web application of any decent size. It sounds like a small thing, but this the main (and most important) difference. – Django Reinhardt Nov 19 '09 at 11:04

Firstly, I'll say: If you're a start up, do you know about the BizSpark program? It may be of interested.

It'll come down to licensing. I don't know from the top of my head, but XP/Latest Windows OS may limit itself from being used to host commercial services purely in the form of that's what it lays out in the EULA. I don't know though, so feel free to read it.

I would suppose, if it's not layed out in there, and you can install all the applications you need on it, and it's fast enough, there would be no problem. Of course, the IIS that comes with XP, at least, is different than the one that comes with Windows Server 2003.

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+1 - The BizSpark program looks to be a good deal for startups. – David Sep 8 '09 at 5:01
+1 for BizSpark – osij2is Nov 19 '09 at 1:53

It's all about marketing and getting more money for Microsoft. Therefore the desktop versions of Windows have a severe limit on concurrent requests in IIS. Don't know the numbers by heart, but it would choke immediately if used under production load. You can however run 3rd party webservers just fine. I just don't know if any of them support ASP.NET.

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In this case, it's a bit more than "marketing and getting more money for Microsoft". There is a basic difference in codebase, services and features that makes desktop versions of the OS less reliable than server versions. While I agree that in some cases Microsoft cuts the legs out from under a product to simply make more money (or sell "Enterprise CALs"), this is not such a clean cut case. Yes, you can install third-party server apps that turn XP into a mail server, etc., and yes there are anecdotes of years of uptime... but there's a reason those are spoken of with such reverence and awe. – Wesley Nov 19 '09 at 4:36

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